SADC looks to ICT infrastructure to transform Higher Education in region

Upgrading and modernising the higher education system by way of ICT infrastructure and improved effectiveness of higher education planning, happen to be a few of the proposals stated in a report which was presented to Ministers of Higher Education and Training from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Delivering the report on Higher Education in the Southern African region, CEO of the Southern Africa Regional Universities Association, Piyushi Kotecha cautioned that if the region did not undergo a  substantial change, the SADC region was projected to attain a 16.3% higher education enrolment rate by 2050 – as compared to the current global gross tertiary enrolment rate of 30%.

Currently, the SADC region is showing a 6.3% enrolment rate which in reality compares poorly with tertiary enrolment in other areas around the world.

Higher education enrolment is barely managing to keep pace with  population growth, aside from Mauritius and South Africa, where tertiary enrolment increased by 20% and 15% respectively over the last 20 years, according to Kotecha.

According to the report, the SADC spent more on education than any other region in the world between 1990 to 2010. Having said that, spending was very uneven and currently SADC countries invest between 4.5% and 5% of their GDPs annually on education, which happens to be comparable to UNESCO’s recommendation of 6% of the GDP.

Another interesting point coming from the report is the fact that higher education outcomes reflected poorly on the investment in education and increased demand had not been met by a higher level of funding. The volume of academic teachers is diminishing, as a result, higher education systems in the region are elite systems.

Several other suggestions stated in the report range from the development of staff and students throughout the region, boosting the number of doctoral graduates, to the strengthening of governance, leadership and management in higher education.

Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Senator Lutho Tapela  pointed out that the country had made sizeable advances in generating opportunities for students looking to obtain higher education. Today, Zimbabwe is second when it comes to literacy rates in Africa with a population of 12 million. The country has put into practice an approach to accommodate students generated by secondary schools, however cannot be absorbed in higher learning institutions. The strategy does include long distance learning, which Tapela identified as the most appropriate with three teacher colleges providing degree programmes in maths and science by way of distance education.

With the help from the Idian government, the University of Zimbabwe has produced an outstanding education programme with over 15 colleges that could possibly in due course grow to be institutions offering degrees after being mentored by well-equipped institutions.

Bridging courses are also offered to  students who do not fulfill some higher education requirements in order to gain entrance to certain programmes. The technical and vocational training participation in higher education by the private sector is extremely important in national development, Tapela stated.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe participates in intergovernmental corporation, getting involved in exchange programmes where science teachers are been trained in Namibia and doctors in Lesotho. Aside from that,  universities and teacher colleges will be established in each province. This is within the higher education ministry’s five year strategic plan. The country is also looking into the setting up another private university and currently there are six run by church organisations.

South African Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize brought to the forefront the necessity to take a look at new means of funding education which include graduate work schemes enabling students to pay back the costs of their education via work after finishing their studies.

“We should also investigate differentiation of our higher education system to meet the variety of needs of our people, a differentiated system covering anything from research universities of technology and technical and vocational education and training colleges. Diversified programmes will go a considerable way in meeting the diverse educational aspirations of our communities,” Mkhize said.

African Development Bank representative Frank Boahene cautioned that government simply cannot accomplish everything on its own and challenged parents and the private sector {to assist|to help. If you believe that education is paramount then invest in your child’s education, he explained, adding that the private sector frequently complained that it did not get the skills it required.

The two-day meeting was focused on formulating a clear policy vision for higher education.

The SADC ministers are expected to set a policy for higher education in the region through process of discussing the status and challenges of the sector in line with the work that has been carried out by SARUA.

SARUA was created to facilitate the revitalisation and development of the leadership and institutions of higher education in the southern African region, consequently making it possible for the regional higher education sector to meaningfully act in response to the developmental challenges facing the region.

Source: BuaNews

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